Kent's feet finally hit the solid ground at the base of the ravine, and he sat down, exhausted. The climb down the ravine had been arduous, and even though Trilomon had stuck his head out of the rock once or twice to check his partner was okay, there wasn't a great deal the bug could have done. The boy wiped the sweat from his brow; the canopy was far thicker than it had seemed, and it had trapped a layer of heat within the grove so much as to make it like a mini rainforest.
Kent stared out into the greenery but could barely make anything out, it was so thick. It didn't help that the sun had since set, although there was some light. Tiny flowers and leaves within the forest were letting off a faint aura, and some of the trees almost seemed like the ones from the crystal forest, way back when he'd first arrived. It was a medley of flora, stretching a long way in both directions.
The boy whistled to himself. "Well it certainly looks like the element of Wood's at work."
There was the sound of crumbling rock behind him and he turned, watching Trilomon poke first his head out of the ground, then each leg in turn, leaving an oddly-shaped tunnel behind him. The bug brushed his front claws off, huffing as he did so.
"The ground here is harder than I remember."
"It probably gets more dense the further down you go." Kent folded his arms. "How deep have you ever dug?"
Trilomon shrugged. "It's impossible to tell. I don't have any reference point. Technically, I suppose, this may be the deepest."
The boy looked up at the ravine wall. "We are pretty far down I suppose. There's no way Nithhogg's going to find us down here in a hurry." He sighed. "Well, time to make a move. Here's probably a good a place to start as any."
Slowly, cautiously, the two edged their way forward, and began to make their way through the thick undergrowth. It wasn't exactly smooth going. Vines stretched in every conceivable direction and the ground was littered with thorny brush and carnivorous looking foliage. The trees around varied from smooth and metallic to pillars of vicious, venomous spikes, and all around them were the fantastic blooming flowers of hundreds of different plants; each one looking more exquisite, or more deadly, than the last.
After half an hour of carefully worming their way through the botanical nightmare, the pair were convinced they were completely lost. It was impossible to tell which direction they'd even come from; the forest appeared to move every time they turned away, leaving them seemingly trapped in some vast leafy web. Eventually they managed to find a slightly less crowded part of the grove in which to catch their breath, the constant ducking and weaving having taken a lot out of them.
Trilomon let out an irritated buzz. "You know, I could have dug to get this far."
"Could you really?"
The bug tilted his head, and tapped the rock below; well, stabbed at the rock below, the ground being covered with several centimetres of moss.
"Ok, maybe not. It really is hard as hell at this level."
Kent rubbed the back of his neck. "This is insane. How long did you leave this place for it to get like this?"
"Don't look at me; none of us knew this was like this. If we knew the element of Wood was still acting up this much I'm sure we'd have tried to retrieve it ages ago…I think…"
Kent looked down, seeing his partner staring at the mossy floor with a somewhat guilty look. He crouched down. "Tell me, what exactly happened back here? With…Pikamon, was it?"
Trilomon trilled sadly. "Nothing special. We were just on our way to find you. We came across this ravine, and there was a bridge across it. Velocimon and I managed to cross, but Pikamon got wounded by the thing that was chasing us. He sacrificed himself and the element to kill it."
"What was it? That was chasing you, I mean?"
There was no answer. Kent straightened up, looking around the undergrowth. "I'm just thinking, do you think this might possibly have something to do with that? Whatever it was?"
"It was that. Over there."
Kent whirled around, looking at his partner, who was staring at a certain segment of the surrounding foliage. Kent followed his partner's gaze, only to jump. There it was, clear as day even in the dim light; a great metal claw, sticking out from the forest floor. Another one lay just behind it, bent at an odd angle, and between them, the twisted remains of a long fallen WarGreymon.
Kent swallowed, but Trilomon nudged him. "It's alright. It's dead. In fact I don't think there's anything left."
Slowly the bug began to move forward, with his partner following, as the bent metal corpse leered out at them, frozen in its final pained movement. Kent circled it, looking all over the twisted and cracked armour, and at the molten lumps around its eyes and the base of its claws. "A Fire Tyrant?"
"One of the first. According to Velocimon it was probably the last of the initial onslaught as well."
"Why is it still here? I thought that Digimon were supposed to dissolve when they died?"
"Not necessarily all of them. Sometimes they'll leave a piece behind that's strong enough for the data particles to stay together."
Kent placed a hand on the great gauntlet. "Like a fossil?"
"Yes, pretty much. WarGreymon armour is made of chrome digizoid, one of the hardest metals in the Digital World. It's all that's left." Trilomon had clambered up onto the fallen tyrant's chest, and he tapped the metal breastplate, inducing a dull ringing that quickly got muffled by the forest. "See, completely hollow. His body must have been purged from the inside out."
Kent grimaced. "Nice."
The bug shrugged, before backtracking a little, running a claw gently over the pattern of cracks in the great breastplate. "That's weird though. When Pikamon fell he had the element with him, but there's no sign of it."
Kent looked around. "Maybe it dissipated or something?"
"If it had this forest would have spread much further. It's definitely concentrated around here. I can feel it."
Down below, the boy stepped back, hand on his chin in thought. "Well it can't have gotten far. Maybe it's actually in one of the trees."
"That's a thought. Where should we start?"
"Anywhere around here, I guess." Kent turned, and stopped dead, looking in all directions. "Ah. Okay."
Trilomon hopped down, looking worriedly up at him. "What is it?"
"I…don't think we can get out."
Trilomon looked puzzled, then looked in front of him. Then either side. Then he clambered back onto WarGreymon's chest and looked around in a circle. "Oh."
"Tell me, is it just me or have the trees moved?"
The trees certainly had moved; in fact all the undergrowth had. It now pointed inwards; sticking out in huge impossible-to-broach spikes that threatened to impale them at the slightest attempt to pass. All through the wood were more of the alien flowers, these ones seemingly of the far more carnivorous variety.
Kent folded his arms, his eyes suddenly darting from place to place. "I see them too. I have a feeling someone doesn't want us getting out of here."
Trilomon gave Kent a worried look, but the boy planted his fist in his left hand. "Nope, this is a good thing. Whatever's responsible for this is nearby, and they probably have the element."
Trilomon was about to retort, when something creaked nearby. There was a gentle rustling of branches from way up above, and a few petals fluttered down to the ground, spiralling in the evening moonbeams that bore down upon the two partners.
Kent and Trilomon looked at one another, both waiting for something to happen. Then, as the last of the petals hit the ground, something did. A voice, deep yet smooth, ringing out from every direction with enough intensity to make the entire forest tremble.
"You're observant, boy."
"Why thank you."
"And no, just so you don't waste your time, you're not getting out of here."
Kent folded his arms. "How kind of you. Can we at least see you?"
There was a pause, then the voice again. "You're looking at me."
Now it was Trilomon's turn to get huffy. "I'm sure we are, but we can't make out a thing in this damn foliage."
"Really? As far as I'm aware I'm pretty difficult to miss. But if you insist…"
There was another creaking, and nearby a couple of trees began to sway. Kent and Trilomon both stared at them, before jumping back. They weren't swaying, they were moving inwards, and they weren't trees. The two watched in horrified awe as an entire segment of forest seemed to detach, and their new acquaintance stepped forwards into the clearing.
It was huge, easily able to peek over the treetops should it stand on its back legs. For now, however, it leant forward, resting on its two gargantuan forearms much like a gorilla, the entire forearm made of hardwood topped with twisted roots that dug into the ground. Its body was broad and covered in shaggy fur, which hung down below in clumps, and stuck up above, entangled with vines that ran up and along its backbone, and twisted into a thorn-covered tail. Spikes of wood stuck up from its spine, forming miniature treelines above its back, which appeared to have dropped the leaves and petals that had fallen earlier. Below all the vegetation and above all the matted fur was a very crude set of armour, and its face was obscured by a mask of twisting wood, the bottom of which tapered into two pointed fangs.
Kent's mouth flapped open, but no sound came out. Trilomon obliged instead. "Bloody hell…"
The great beast grunted, and sat back on its hind legs, raising a great forearm and tapping its chest with odd dexterity. "Since you so desired, here I am."
"Who are you?"
"Call me Silvamon. I guard this element and this grove; the last forest of the Digital World." He leaned forwards, his verdant green eyes darting between his two quarries. "I hate to tell you this, but you're trespassing."
Trilomon raised a claw, and the great beast obliged him. "Actually, we were told to come here. Is there no way you can help us out?"
"So you were sent here. Makes no difference to me. Far as I can see, you don't have any more right to be here than anyone else."
Trilomon stepped back instinctively, but Kent held his ground, glaring up at the great beast. "You know what? Yes. We do. We were brought here for a reason, the bloody world is ending; the least you could do is help us out."
Silvamon sat back, planting his forearms behind him in a relaxed manner. "Oh, don't worry, I know what's going on. But give you the element of Wood? Yeah, not gonna happen."
"Well for one thing, it's not yours." Silvamon reached forward, pointing a great finger down at the two Earth warriors. "You already have an element, don't you? Why do you need this one?"
Trilomon finally piped up, although he still hid behind Kent just a little. "The elements are more powerful together. We could really use your help with this one."
Silvamon tilted his head. "Then how badly do you want this thing?"
Kent looked down at the bug behind him, who nodded. The boy reached into his pocket and brought out his D-Nexus. "Last chance. We don't have time for this; if you don't give us the element of Wood or at least help us, we will take it."
Silvamon raised his eyebrows beneath his mask, and pushed himself up to his feet again, his great fists causing little tremors in the ground. "I didn't quite catch that. Are you threatening me?"
"Trust me, we've beaten more powerful and ugly creatures than you. I wouldn't do this; I'm really not in the mood for a game here."
Silvamon leant down, causing both partners to back away, simply staring up into the nightmarish eye looking down upon them. Silvamon chuckled, the trees on his back vibrating. "That's a shame. I'm quite fond of games."
Kent raised his D-Nexus. "I will! I swear!"
Kent and Trilomon leapt out of the way just in time as Silvamon's arm came crashing down, slamming into the ground. In an instant spikes of twisted wood erupted from the ground, writhing every which way as they attempted to ensnare the two smaller warriors. The two reconvened behind WarGreymon's body, just out of reach of the thorny snare.
"You maniac! What do you think you're doing?"
There was a chuckle, seeming to come from all around them once again. Kent looked up, and saw Silvamon's mask poking out from the treeline in front of him. "You want this element, you're going to have to earn it. I told you, it doesn't belong to you."
"Son of a…"
Silvamon sniggered, and his mask disappeared. As the treelines all around morphed again, Kent stood up, D-Nexus firmly in hand as he looked down at his partner. "What do you think?"
"I'm not in the mood for this. Let's do it."
"Primal Control! Soul Control!"
The two Earth warriors rose their hands simultaneously, as spirals of leaves and thorns, seeds and petals flew at them from every direction at once. The blast knocked them off their feet, sending them sprawling in a heap next to the fallen WarGreymon. Cratomon went to stand up, but his body refused to move.
Looking down at himself, he saw roots and vines crawling over his body, from where the seeds of the attack had embedded themselves beneath his armour plating. Looking up, he saw his partner was currently struggling with the same ailment. There was a chuckle, and Silvamon's torso appeared just above them, great arms folded like a grotesque Puck. "You might as well give it up. Those things are messy; I tied up many an unfortunate Fire soldier who came wandering in here. They make great fertilizer."
Seismon growled. "Yeah, well we're slightly harder to deal with!"
With a yell he extended his spear, slashing away at his bindings before they could take hold. He lunged forwards, the bone shards erupting from the spear head. "Seismic Shards!"
He swung, and the projectiles flew wide, but Silvamon disappeared back into the treeline before they could make contact. There was a quick rustling, and Seismon waited, his eyes focused ahead of him.
The insect shot away from the fist as it slammed down next to him, causing to stumble just a little, but not enough to stop him from stabbing the giant's forearm. Silvamon veered back, missing the canopy this time and coming to a halt on the other side of the grove, clutching the hole in his wooden muscle.
"You're quick. Too bad you won't get another hit. You won't be that lucky again."
"He won't need to be." Cratomon stood high, his body glowing as he planted himself in the centre of the grove.
Silvamon's eyes widened and he scarpered back as fast as his great bulk would allow him, but Paleomon had had chances to perfect this form; he swung his mighty axe round only once and brought it down over his head.
The ground erupted, breaking the understory apart before Silvamon could even reach it. The giant staggered, the very ground shaking beneath him as gemstones shot into his legs, and he turned and laughed heartily. "Clever. But I control this battlefield, you know."
"Sure about that? Paladin Stone!"
Paleomon struck the ground, and waves of compressed earth energy shot outwards, disrupting the tightly-knit forest and pulling the foliage apart. Paleomon straightened up, but his attention was drawn away as immediately the forest began to mend itself. Silvamon placed his hands on his hips, chuckling. "Now this is more like it!"
"What's wrong with you? Is this just a game to you?"
"Everything's a game. There's always a winner, always a loser. You can't be sour no matter which side you end up on."
Paleomon clutched his great weapon again, focusing his energy. "You arsehole…the world is ending and you're playing games? You're still just messing around? People have died."
"You think I don't know that?" Silvamon straightened up, his eyes looking momentarily baleful. "I'm not stupid. I know what's happening. I've seen the attempts to fight against the Fire Kingdom and this Nithhogg creature, and I've seen them fail. Time and time again. The element? It's beyond any of this; it makes up the very fabric of the Digital World. It doesn't belong to you. It doesn't belong to anyone. If you believe yourself to have the right to take it, then you don't. As long as I'm here, a piece of the world is protected. That's all you need to know."
Paleomon's eyes flashed. "So you'd sacrifice this world just to keep one piece alive?"
"Isn't it your job to protect everything? Seems like you've done bang-up work so far." Silvamon leant forward, balancing on his forearms as Paleomon raised his axe. "You seem to think you're so clever and strong but you shouldn't be focusing your power at a distance. You need to be willing to protect this world yourself. Willing to get your hands properly dirty. So are you? Gaia Hand!"
The behemoth rushed forward with a sudden ferocity, his right arm slamming into Paleomon with enough force to crack the earth. Silvamon pulled back, then threw another punch, this one crashing into the skeletal warrior's shoulder blade. Paleomon choked in pain, only for the hand to come down a third time, this one bending him backwards by the embedded spine and pinning him there. He stared up, Silvamon's unblinking eyes looking him all over.
Paleomon squirmed. "That's what I've been doing! Paladin Stone!"
The base of the axe struck the earth and a column of rock erupted outwards, slamming into Silvamon's hip. But the giant didn't move, despite the impact cracking some of his mahogany armour. He merely huffed, and pressed harder. "You've become sloppy. Cocky. You think I'm just another enemy; I'm just someone else you can beat back to get what you want, just like always."
"How do you-"
"You even seem to think I didn't notice that you and your partner can't reach this form at the same time…"
Silvamon turned in a flash, his other arm extending and catching Trilomon's tiny body. There was a yelp, and the roots began to close up, wrapping the insect tightly and firmly.
"Don't fool yourself, bug. I could sense you coming a mile off."
"Can you sense this then?"
Silvamon turned, only to see that Paleomon had dropped his axe. His body was glowing and both hands were in front of him, pointing at the giant's other hand.
Paleomon exploded in a flurry of energy, and Kent rolled away, running as fast as he could as the rumbling began. Silvamon whirled around, but his left hand was already growing heavy as the energy swarmed inside, morphing the insect's body. Silvamon yelled as his hand exploded into splinters, with Tectonamon's body spilling out and crashing into the earth. The giant fell back, finally downed, as the giant bug stood above him with the great sickles raised, his multiple jaws chattering away.
The two sabres crashed down into Silvamon's chest, and the giant cried out as crystal spears struck him from beneath. Tectonamon backed away, watching as the great behemoth writhed. Then, suddenly, Silvamon stopped, sniggering under his breath.
Kent wandered out to a safe distance, trying to disguise the fact he was out of breath. "What's so funny?"
"I like it. I really do. You two have all but mastered sharing your power. It's really quite wonderful."
Calmly, he reached up with both arms and grabbed the clusters of gems sticking through his body, breaking them off as if they were twigs, and slowly – deceptively slowly - he got to his feet, stretching as he reached his full height. Kent shivered, feeling the goliath's eyes bearing down upon him. There was a rustling nearby and Tectonamon growled aggressively, building energy in his mouth.
The ball flew towards him, but Silvamon simply reached out a forearm, catching the bolus effortlessly and crushing it in his fist. He looked at the twisted wood, and the several shards of bone and rock popped out one by one, the cuts healing in no time at all. "I wouldn't bother. I know your attacks. All of them. None of them are strong enough."
Kent narrowed his eyes, glaring up at the goliath. "I don't get it! What do you want?"
"It's not what I want. It's what you want." Silvamon stood on his hind legs, swaying as the foliage around him went into a frenzy, the branches over his back writhing and twisting. "You want this element? Really, truly want it? Need it? You need to take it. You will need to beat me down and prise it from me because if you can't do that then you won't stand a chance against Nithhogg. And if you think you can win against me with the pathetic attacks you've been using, you're very sorely mistaken."
"Shut up!" Tectonamon slammed his sickles down again, the tremors making Silvamon stumble, but not fall. The great insect roared out every word. "This isn't a game! This isn't a competition! We've been trying to save this world since the very beg-"
"Why don't you stop right there with the whining, you CHILD!"
Tectonamon faltered, and Silvamon reached out, the roots of one hand twisting together into a single pointing finger. "You keep making the same excuse that this is what you're meant to do but at the end of the day you still refuse to truly stand up for what you're doing. You haven't fought in a war. You haven't even fought. You've simply kept running and buckling under the weight of the world, just like everybody else."
There was a flash, and Tectonamon's great form dissolved into Seismon, who raised his arms defensively. Silvamon looked around and saw Cratomon stepping towards him, his great stone blade swinging back and forth like a pendulum on his own strong forearm.
"Don't you dare insult my partner. We've done more to save this world than you have."
Silvamon stretched up, his claw hands now balling up into fists, inside which glowed a peculiar yellow energy. "Have you really? From what I can see you're the only ones left. Should I really entrust you with the power to save the world, knowing you can't use it?"
"Better us trying and failing than you refusing to stand up for the world you live in." Cratomon pulled his arm back, the blade glowing a bright, neon green. "Last chance. Give us the element or we'll take it, even if we have to tear you apart to do it."
Silvamon narrowed his eyes. "Will you? Will you really?"
"I dare you."
Cratomon's eyes flashed, and he glanced over at Seismon. The insect flexed his arms, and raised his palm.
Silvamon held up his forearms either side, but the attacks still dug deep, blowing away the wood in splinters and leaving two great holes in each one. Already Cratomon and Seismon were on the move, rushing either side and preparing to fire again. They did so, again simultaneously, and the attacks struck Silvamon in the mask, cracking it straight down the middle.
"Ow, get off!"
Silvamon swung his arm back, sending Cratomon rolling away. Behind the giant, Seismon reared up on his back two pairs of legs, bringing back his right arm that pulsed with energy.
Silvamon jerked as the fist struck him in the hip, and he crumpled sideways, red data falling out from beneath his matted fur. The thorns across his back whipped outwards and lunged at the insect, but Seismon backed away, unsheathing his spear and slicing the branches before they could entangle him.
"I'm still here, you know…"
Silvamon whipped his head around, only to see Cratomon lunging towards him, his sabre green and pulsating.
Silvamon didn't even have time to block. The stone blade struck him in the chest, cleaving through the heavy breastplate and causing him to stumble backwards. He coughed, and raised an arm to his torso, wiping away blood. He looked at his fingers almost curiously for some time, and then began to chuckle. Seismon and Cratomon regrouped in front of him, building energy yet again. "What's so funny?"
"You still think you can win this. That's actually quite hilarious."
Cratomon raised his fists. "We're still going. You won't last much longer."
Silvamon sighed. "Alright. Enough's enough."
The goliath's eyes flashed, and he raised his arms.
There was a flash of white, and a hum that rippled through the forest, disturbing the leaves. Cratomon and Seismon were slammed into the ground as their bodies were overcome by white tendrils, which emanated from Silvamon's arms. Cratomon tried to turn, to call out to his partner, but the tendrils kept him still, wrapping around his body in swathes and digging in beneath his armour plate. He turned his eyes back, unable to see much due to the blinding light, but he could see enough.
Silvamon was standing up tall. From all around him, data was returning to his body, fixing his broken armour and healing his wounds. He stared down, his eyes piercing, as he watched the two bound figures.
"A life for a life. Yggdrasil will grant life to those who can use it, and take it from those who can't. It's the law of the Digital World. You simply can't handle this power. This responsibility. That you tried is admirable, but you never could."
The tendrils trembled, and Cratomon looked to his left to see Seismon grasping the life-sucking bindings, trying to pull them away. "You're…wrong…"
Silvamon jumped, and as he did so the two warriors of Earth were dragged through the air with him, the white bindings pulling the very data from their bodies. The giant lazily spun in mid-air, before falling, holding his arms above him and bringing them down as he landed. The two warriors hit the ground with a crack, the impact too heavy to even cry out.
Silvamon reached round and flung his right arm wide, the bindings finally releasing as Seismon was sent skywards.
A spiral of seeds erupted from Silvamon's arm, engulfing the great insect like a swarm of mosquitoes. Cratomon tried to reach out, but Silvamon simply threw him backwards, bringing his great arm over towards the spiralling mass.
The fist slammed down, bringing seeds and Seismon down to the ground and pummelling them into the earth.
Nearly on his feet, Cratomon looked up just as the immense fist slammed into him, sending him back into a tree with enough force to bring it crashing down. His breath stopped in his throat, and as the great fist returned to its owner, the stone warrior fell forwards, his armour falling away in flakes. Kent fell to his knees, then forwards completely, his battered body wracked with short breaths, and his eyes staring into nothing. He couldn't move. At all. All he could do is listen to the constant electronic whistling that grew steadily louder, and the great footsteps of the guardian behemoth as it stood over him.
Silvamon reached down, and picked up the fallen boy's body as if it were a ragdoll, holding it up to his eye level and scrutinising the broken form.
"Well, you tried. Bad luck."
Silvamon turned, and looked down to see Trilomon crawling towards him, the bug barely moving, but still moving nonetheless.
Silvamon snorted, and let go of Kent, who fell in a crumpled heap. The goliath bore down on the bug, staring at the weak bodied insect. "And what do you think you have that you can beat me with now? You've given everything."
Trilomon staggered, and fell flat. Silvamon watched as he stood up again, his legs cracked and shaking. "I've done far more than you ever thought I could. And I think you're just waiting for me to go one step further." The bug raised his head, his eyes glinting. "I think you always have been, since then. I should have guessed. Of course you were looking after the element. It would be you. Huh, Pikamon?"
Silvamon's eyes widened, but only for a second. "I'm done waiting. You've failed. It's over. I trusted you all to carry on without me and you all failed. Velocimon didn't even make it here, that bastard." Silvamon raised a fist, the claw glowing yellow. "Why should I trust any of you now? Gaia Hand!"
"Why do you think?"
The fist came down, but Silvamon knew he hadn't hit. He turned, and saw Kent clutching Trilomon in his arms, looking up defiantly. The boy's eyes narrowed. "You've made a mistake. We're not finished yet. We haven't failed."
Kent sniffed, and placed Trilomon down beside him. The bug stood firm, whereas Kent, shaky though he was, got up on his feet again. "As long as we can still move, and still stand, and still raise our arms against you, we haven't failed. If you've been watching us for so long then surely you know that."
Silvamon chuckled. "You're still spouting that bullshit? That you can keep standing and that somehow that's enough? You are just so disappointing."
"Disappointing…" Trilomon looked up at his partner. "I guess we were, a little."
"You were only a child. It wasn't your fault."
"I was the oldest; I should have taken the lead from the beginning. Ever since I came here I thought it was just enough to stand up. Maybe we can survive like that. But this time, we need to win. And right now, it's my job to help everyone do just that." Kent smiled. "Sorry. It's our job. If you'll stand with me."
Trilomon nodded. "Always, Kent. I'll keep following you and I will always fight with you."
"We've been going about this wrong." Kent stood up tall, and glared up at the giant that towered over him. "I should probably thank you. All this time we were just trying to get your element. Instead, why don't we take ours and bring it to you?"
The goliath grunted. "Big words. You humans are so arrogant; I'm glad I never got saddled with one of you."
"I'll keep it in mind." The boy glanced down at his partner, who stood tall beside him. "Ready to stand up for this world?"
"We'll keep moving, no matter what."
"But we'll stand firm against anyone who threatens us." Kent held out his D-Nexus. "Come on. Let's finish this, together."
Silvamon scoffed. "I've heard enough. You haven't got anything left. Yggdrasil's Chains!"
He thrust his arms out again, but this time it was different. There was a rush of energy and the white tendrils were swatted away, the pulsating green light spiralling around the two. Silvamon felt a pressure against him, the electronic whistling filling the area.
Slowly, Kent raised his arm, his eyes glowing a bright green which coursed over his body brighter than before. Trilomon was the same, his armour plates rattling as webs of green sprouted over his tiny, battered body.
Silvamon backed away, feeling the energy coursing through him, rustling every part of the grove and sending waves of energy sky high. The two figures glowed even more, now barely recognisable, as they reached out towards each other.
The two figures touched, and suddenly their bodies dissolved; wrapping around each other in spiralling waves as the forms of Cratomon, Seismon, Paleomon and Tectonamon flashed up. For a moment the green mass was chaotic; the mass of static that had brought out the beast in each of them before. Then it calmed, leaving a tiny orb floating in the midst of the storm. The element of Earth.
Slowly the figure built around it. First the white silhouette, reaching out with eight limbs into the air around it. Then green lines began to trace over it, forming a network of armour that solidified and was made real. In a matter of seconds the figure was solid, and the energy flowed inwards.
The new Digimon fell a short foot, hitting the ground with enough impact to make the trees around shake, and even Silvamon tremble. He was humanoid, his arms and legs fibrous and powerful, and covered in bone and crystal. Three sets of arms emerged from his shoulders, the arms long and multi-jointed, with spike-studded fists at the end of each one. His entire body was covered in armour plate, again studded with green crystals that shone with a vibrant life. His head was encased in a skull mask; not threatening nor bestial, but almost regal, like a knight's helmet, with three gems staring out as eyes, and long, black braids blowing in the wind behind him. At the centre of his chest was the elemental seal; no, it was the element itself. The focus of all his energy; calm and patient, but with the very force of the earth itself, waiting to erupt.
The Digimon stood up straight, and raised all six arms against the giant before it.
Silvamon backed up, nodding his head slightly. "I see."
"You have something I need."
The goliath stood on his hind legs, both his fists glowing brightly.
"Then come and take it! Yggdrasil's Chains!"
The tendrils rushed forwards; bright spears all aiming for Archaeomon at once. But the warrior moved like the wind. Taking one step back, he brought up all six arms and grasped the glowing vines, catching most of them while a few wrapped around his neck.
The warrior strained, letting out a heavy roar as he swung his arms around, pulling Silvamon down with a crash. The tendrils fell in a heap, but Archaeomon kept hold of a set and leapt to one side, wrenching the great goliath's arm. Silvamon yelled and struggled to his feet, finally pulling his arm back as the tendrils snapped. The grove was scattered with a glowing green liquid, from which moss and small plants began to sprout.
"Son of a…Verdant Blitz!"
Silvamon swung his arms wide and the storm caught Archaeomon causing him to stagger back, temporarily blinded as the thorns grew over him. He turned, just as Silvamon rushed towards him, fist brought back and glowing.
Archaeomon raised four arms and caught it, the impact sending him back into the ground but still standing. He grunted, and twisted his body, grappling the arm and wrenching it once again. Silvamon fell to one side, but this time Archaeomon was up against him, bringing three arms back at once. They came down in quick succession, each blow hard enough to shatter stone, and just as the third arm had hit then the next three began. Silvamon coughed as his arm was reduced half to splinters, the wood desperately trying to regrow but unable to keep up with the pace.
The giant roared, sending a leg out in a great sweep that caught Archaeomon, though he blocked it easily. Silvaomon hadn't finished yet though; he reared back and brought his head down, catching the smaller warrior with a crushing blow that cracked the mask even more, causing pieces to fall from the eye socket. Archaeomon stumbled, and that gave Silvamon the opportunity he needed.
The giant's other arm flew out from seemingly nowhere, finally sending the armoured warrior flying. Silvamon watched as he twisted in mid-air, and he brought both forearms down, preparing to charge.
Archaeomon's landing shook the grove, and he glanced up to see the giant rushing towards him like a wild boar.
"You're incredibly strong. I wish I didn't have to do this."
Clenching his three right fists, he planted them each into the ground in turn, the ground morphing in his hands as he flexed his muscles.
Silvamon was practically on him when he thrust his arms forwards, bringing a huge wedge of crystal with them. The crystal slammed into the giant and carried on, sending him backwards with the velocity of a bullet train. Silvamon landed roughly, scattering wood everywhere, but the warrior hadn't finished yet. Taking a moment to shake the gem shards out of his arms, he began to run, his legs building momentum and pulling crystal up with each step, until he was running within a crystal juggernaut, far bigger and faster than the last. Silvamon barely had time to stand when the crystal hit him, sending him crashing back through the grove, through trees and bushes, and slamming him into the ravine wall.
The giant's body slammed backwards, sending cracks down both forearms and bending one leg at a horrific angle. Archaeomon stepped back, his gait unsteady, but he raised his fists again. "Please, give me what I need."
Silvamon chuckled, spat out a tooth, and threw a punch. Archaeomon batted his fist aside, making the blow a glancing one, before thrust back himself, bringing the great stone fist into Silvamon's hip. The giant buckled, but still remained standing, looking down at the warrior with contempt and admiration together.
"Not until you've proved it to the end."
So they stood, throwing blow after blow upon each other, each one enough to shatter bone and turn rock to dust. They stood for a good few minutes. Some blows they dodged, others they countered, more than once did Silvamon knock Archaeomon to the ground with a crunching blow, cracking the armour and twisting the bone. But the giant had been worn down. Every punch that Archaeomon threw took more away from him; the fur was matted with mud and moss and blood, the armour completely rendered away, and the mask had been shattered long before, revealing Silvamon's smiling, bearded face.
A particularly gruelling punch sent Silvamon back onto his hindquarters, where his shoulders racked with coughs as he looked up at the warrior standing before him, barely even out of breath.
"You know what you need to do. You need to finish this." He winked. "Trilomon, you know, right? You know how the elements work."
For a moment Archaeomon looked down at the ground. Then he raised a single fist, his armour pulsating with energy that flowed from his chest; the energy from the element of Earth.
"It'll be quick."
With incredible speed he leapt forwards, holding his arm back as he aimed for the giant's chest.
The fist slammed in, embedding itself in the giant's chest. Not a second had passed when the energy exploded outwards. A wave of pressure slammed Silvamon's body back against the ravine, cracking the rock all around. Archaeomon narrowed his eyes, and the other fists came forwards, causing a rain of crystal shards to erupt from the surface, piercing through Silvamon's body in a hundred places and falling over the forest. The web of glowing cracks snaked up the ravine wall, which promptly jerked, groaned, and crumbled down, burying the two of them in rubble.
Archaeomon stood up, brushing the rocks away from him and looking down. There was rock everywhere. Great gouges carved out of the ground, and shards littering every surface. There was a crackling sound, and the warrior turned to see the grove melting away; trees shrivelling, bushes turning black, and the moss turning to dust on the floor.
"I guess I finally beat you."
"Took you long enough."
The warrior looked back, to where there was a most odd sight. As the plants faded away, their data spiralled skywards, and then bent over and back towards the ground. There it swirled around, flowing into a light green orb that spun and bobbed, a figure emerging around it. Archaeomon stepped forwards, and bent to one knee.
The figure put his stubby arms on his hips, shaking his head. "How did you figure out it was me?"
"Mainly because you wouldn't shut up. It had to be you."
Pikamon grinned, and scratched behind his ears. "That's fair. Well, it's sort of me. Ish. Maybe. I don't know, not really." He looked almost wistfully out over the grove, where everything had almost faded to nothing, save for the chrome Digizoid armour of the WarGreymon. Pikamon sighed, holding his arm up against the moonlight, before looking at it and noting that he was slightly see-through. "One cock-up. That's all it needed. I could have been with you guys if I weren't a moron."
Archaeomon's voices shifted slightly, with the deeper undertone of Kent's coming through. "I thought you didn't want to have anything to do with arrogant humans?"
The rodent shrugged. "I'm sure I'd have gotten used to it. All of you certainly seemed to. Ah, well. C'est la vie. Ou... c'est la mort, I guess."
"Were you here all this time? Protecting the element?"
"I think the element protected me, sort of. I did kind of die, so maybe not." Pikamon waved his hands around. "It's a long story. I had a talk with someone. In the end I figured it would be best to hold on to this until the time came you were ready to take it." He looked up, scanning Archaeomon's new form. "I'd hold it until the time came you could finally stand up to the Digital World's threat. I'd say you've done a pretty good job. Both of you. Caught me off guard."
Archaeomon nodded. "Thank you."
"No, thank you. After this I can finally get some rest." He patted his chest, smiling. "You've earned this. Keep hold of it; you will need it. Elements belong together; every single one." His face turned serious for a second. "You don't have much time. You'll all need to be there with Nithhogg before the end of the world."
Archaeomon stood tall, towering over the rodent. "Don't worry. I'll make sure it happens."
"I know you will. You're a far cry from the frightened little guy we came across in the Southern Daggers." Pikamon knocked his head. "Sorry, I do forget there are two of you in there."
Archaeomon chuckled. "I wouldn't have come this far otherwise."
"Damn, I think my time might be up for real this time." Pikamon squinted against the sky again, and raised his hand, the colour beginning to fade once again. "One more thing. Please, I was hoping to see Velocimon off, properly this time. Can you find him? He's lost out there without me, whatever he might like to think. Weird little soldier-boy; he always did try far too hard."
"I promise. Thank you. For everything. I'm sorry I had to hit you so hard."
Pikamon shrugged. "What the heck; it's good for me." The rodent waved, giving one last smile as the data finally dispersed, leaving just the element of Wood, bobbing up and down. Gingerly Archaeomon reached out and picked it up, holding the tiny orb within his fingers in awe.
"Geez…all that power in this tiny thing…"
He held it against his chest, and in a moment it was gone. Archaeomon looked up at the (far more open) ravine wall, cricked his neck a couple of times, and jumped.
It only took him a couple of minutes to reach the top, planting his hands in the more solid of the rock and clambering up like a spider. Finally at the top, he took a couple of steps, before collapsing forwards. As his body glowed, he rolled onto his back, staring up at the night sky.
Kent frowned. There was a tapping nearby, and Trilomon leant over, staring into his eyes. "You okay? That didn't take too much out of you?"
Kent sat up, holding his left arm and wincing. "Honestly, I don't think so. It was probably being beaten up so badly beforehand that did most of the work."
He smiled, and looked up, only to see Trilomon staring out over the wastegrounds. Kent nodded. "You think he's out there?"
"Velocimon? He must be somewhere."
"It's a big place. Are you sure you can find him?"
"We said to Pikamon we would, didn't we?" Trilomon took a couple of steps, before looking back. "Are you coming?"
"I'll wait for you here." Kent tapped his D-Nexus, then his laptop. "I need to find the others, and then find where we're going. Shouldn't take me too long."
Trilomon nodded. "Sure thing. I'll hurry."
Kent waved, as the flurry of earth indicated where Trilomon had been moments before. The boy sighed, turning back to his D-Nexus. There was an extra glow in it now; the element of Wood dancing around with his own. He clutched it tightly, feeling its new warmth as he looked out over the horizon; the shimmering edge of the Digital World as it grew smaller and smaller.
"Hang in there everyone. I'll be with you as soon as I can."
He reached back and opened his laptop, plugging the D-Nexus into it one more time.
"Before the end of the world, we'll meet each other again."